U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, from his Fast Lane blog

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, from his Fast Lane blog.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced yesterday [Tuesday] that he is stepping down from the post he has held during President Barack Obama’s first four years.

In an article in The Washington Post, Ashley Halsey III quotes LaHood from a statement:

I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.

As Halsey points out, LaHood, the only Republican in the Cabinet, has been relentless in pointing out the dangers of distracted driving, “his safety-first mantra and his determination to visit every state in the union.”

Kathleen Hennessey writes in the Los Angeles Times that in a note to his staff, LaHood listed his top accomplishments during his tenure, including a program to reduce texting while driving, fighting pilot fatigue, and more than $50 billion for transportation projects as part of Obama’s stimulus package.

President Obama thanked LaHood in a statement issued by the White House and noted that years ago, the two of them “were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent, and Ray has never wavered in that belief,” Hennessey reports.

In a post for the Automotive News blog Vehicle Technology, Jamie LaReau laments LaHood’s announcement that he is stepping down, saying she worries that whoever replaces him will not have the same level of commitment to the war against distracted driving. She writes:

LaHood said that his department has been on a ‘rampage’ against behind-the-wheel distractions. He believes that it’s not enough to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road; a driver’s mind should be on the road, too. That’s not possible if the driver is engaged in a conversation on the phone or fumbling through touch screens to adjust the temperature.

Drivers will always be subject to some level of distraction. Each time a driver changes a radio station, tweaks the climate settings or converses with another occupant, he or she is distracted momentarily.

But LaHood’s ‘rampage’ was a big step for the industry — to bring awareness and keep the conversation going about the importance of paying attention and mitigating distractions as much as possible behind the wheel.

I hope his replacement stays the course.

Halsey reports that there was no word from the White House on who would replace LaHood, although “the rumor mill was rife with suggestions,” including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa; former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell; National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman; and James Oberstar, the former Minnesota congressman who once chaired the House transportation committee.

On his blog Fast Lane, in a post titled “I will not serve a second term; but we have more work to do,” LaHood provides a link to a list of his department’s accomplishments during the last four years: “U.S. Department of Transportation Accomplishments Overview.”

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